29th Sep 2011
We've just gotten behind the wheel of the new XUV500, Mahindra's most important SUV since the Scorpio. This thoroughly modern SUV is the first Indian SUV to be built around a car-like monocoque chassis. This of course means it is lighter than a traditional ladder frame SUV, has a modern car-like independent suspension and most importantly plenty of useable space between the long 2700mm wheelbase as well.
Under the hood:
The XUV gets the familiar 2.2-litre mHawk engine with a variable geometry turbocharger similar to the one in the Scorpio. However, it now makes more power and torque – 140bhp and 33.33 kgm of torque – and is placed transversely. Mahindra is offering two versions – a front-wheel drive version and an all-wheel drive one. We drove the latter and we're impressed. The mHawk engine was always known for its responsiveness, strong mid-range power and refinement and there's more of the same here. There is a hint of lag below 1500 rpm, the turbo kicks soon after and the engine pulls cleanly to its redline. The meat of the power though is between 2500rpm to 4000rpm – keep the engine spinning in this range, and you will find effortless performance. With its easy to use six-speed manual gearbox, cruising at three digit speeds is a piece of cake and apart from a hint of turbo-whistle the engine is refined. The XUV's lighter weight also helps its sprightly performance and fuel economy as well. The ARAI fuel efficiency figure for the XUV is a class-leading 15.1kpl.
Ride and handling:
The XUV's suspension is a very luxury saloon-like MacPherson struts up front and multi-link independent setup at the rear. With the performance on tap, it's a good thing that the XUV doesn't display any of the Scorpio's wayward high-speed manners. It feels stable in a straight line, the steering gives you a lot of confidence and the XUV's lower center of gravity and longer wheelbase goes a long way in making you feel more secure. The XUV is uses a full-time all-wheel drive system that detects wheelspin and directs torque to the wheels that have grip, so it feels quite secure around corners as well. That said, the XUV is no hardcore off-roader – there's no low range transfer case, but it does have a differential lock and hill descent control for light off-roading duty on the four wheel drive version.
Our short test drive allowed us to drive over only a few rough patches, but these were enough to reveal that the XUV is both pliant and comfortable. However there is some amount of side to side movement, especially over uneven patches.
The design is very forward looking too and, undoubtedly, the styling is the clearly the talking point here. For a start, the stance of the car is spot-on. Almost Mitsubishi Outlander like in the way it carries its weight, the long wheelbase, tapering roof and rising beltline makes this car look quite dynamic and modern. The best part however is that the stand-up awkwardness of the Scorpio is gone, and that's fantastic.
Still, look closer and you'll see a lot of fussy detailing all over the car. The nose especially has too many cuts, the wheel arches are a touch oversized and the rear is especially exaggerated with those fake strakes on the D-pillar. There are some appealing touches though, especially the Range Rover Evoque like rising beltline and blacked out pillars.
On the inside:
The XUV has a tough build. The doors open and close with an impressive thunk, the insides have a hard wearing feel to them and the design is quite impressive as well, blending both traditional and modern quite nicely. There's the typically large Mahindra wheel, a pair of impressively detailed deep dish dials and the 'V' shaped central console has a touchscreen on top. And like any good SUV there's plenty of storage space here too.
And it's comfortable on the insides too. The seats are large and supportive, cabin space on all three rows is phenomenal and this makes the XUV a great car to spend long hours in. The second row bench however is not mounted on rails, so you can't slide it forward to give third row occupants more space. What's nice however is that the floor is flat and the central console does not intrude into the middle passenger's space on the second row. With seven passengers however there's absolutely no luggage space.
Attention to detail and levels of fit and finish are also a bit disappointing. There are plenty of shiny plastic parts, some joints and shutlines are visible in places and some buttons feel poorly made as well.
Mahindra has piled on the features however. This top-end W8 version gets a unique feature – voice commands for the audio system. Other standard goodies are the reverse parking sensors, air-con vents for all three rows, Bluetooth connectivity and a touch-screen system with satellite navigation (it's got voice guidance in eight regional languages). This top-of-the-line version has plenty of safety features too. There's ESP or anti-skid control, you get tyre pressure monitoring and with six airbags you should be pretty well protected. It's also got a touch-screen system, satellite navigation, alloy wheels and remote locking.
Mahindra has taken a giant leap forward with the XUV500. It's spacious, comfortable and attractive. But the best bit is that Mahindra has given it a shatteringly competitive price. The base two wheel drive W6 starts at Rs 10.8 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) going onto Rs 11.9 lakh for top end two wheel drive W8. There's only one four wheel drive version, the top-end W8, for Rs 12.88 lakh. However, these are introductory prices and may go up in two or three months.
With the XUV's combination of frankly unbelievable pricing, long equipment list and strong diesel engine, it's clear that Mahindra has got another winner on its hands.